Here's what didn't make the cut for the new Bob Hall Pier

The design of the new Bob Hall Pier won’t include a restaurant similar to the one previously occupied by Mikel May’s Beachside Bar and Grill – at least, for now.

The popular restaurant had been located on the county’s pier as a third-party concession stand until 2020, when Hurricane Hanna’s powerful waves severely damaged the gulf-side Padre Island structure, eventually leading to its demolition.

The county is moving forward with development of the new pier – its most recent estimate about $21.7 million – but in a 3-2 vote, the court voted down the third-party concession feature, those in the majority by and large citing budget issues.

Following demolition of Bob Hall Pier, this is the only remaining piece of the structure.
Following demolition of Bob Hall Pier, this is the only remaining piece of the structure.

It’s not yet, however, an impossible proposition, said Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney – the court’s most adamant supporter of including the amenity as part of the new pier.

He told the Caller-Times on Thursday that he intended to continue pushing for its build as part of the project and do everything possible to bring it “back into action.”

“It’s not dead yet,” he said. “It’s on life support, but we’re trying to see if we can accommodate the budget needs of the county and still build that.”

Cost concerns

Opposition to including what is being described as a concession stand – what Mikel May’s had been considered – mainly came down to financial issues.

Nueces County Judge Connie Scott said that, specifically, deep-cuts and multimillion dollar shortfall recently realized in the adopted budget drove her vote. Scott was the most vocal official speaking against including the business in the plans.

The budget this year saw about a $5 million to $7 million projected shortfall from contested appraisals, she said, along with other funding issues, including health insurance costs.

It’s not a matter of assigning importance – the island and Bob Hall Pier are important – but “the other needs took precedence,” she said.

That includes funding the repair of leaking roofs on the county’s courthouse and jail, Scott said, adding that each department had made cuts this year.

It’s not clear yet how much money could be reallocated by cutting a third-party concession stand –previous estimates have ranged between $2.7 million to $4 million, Scott said.

A firmer number is anticipated to be provided in the future by consultants.

What could be done with a reallocation, should the court decide to go that route, hasn’t been decided.

That’s not to say that part of the project is entirely dead, Scott said – the vote of the court as a whole could change between now and the start of construction.

Although the discussion can be revisited, she also said she believes it is not likely to happen this year or next, given the budget situation.

“I have been tasked with a job here and my responsibility is to the county,” she said. “We have other issues that we aren’t able to take care of.”

Community support

Residents who turned out for a meeting last week spoke almost unanimously in support of returning the pier to its pre-Hanna condition.

Although the vote was about whether to include a third-party concession stand – not who would be operating it, if it were built – many commenters specifically supported returning to residency Mikel May’s Beachside Bar and Grill.

Supporters described it as inherent to drawing visitors and area residents.

Among them was Kathy Snapka, who described restaurants as “the lifeblood of any community.”

“You can’t have the full experience without being able to sit down and have a nice meal, enjoy the unique view… and the ability to congregate with friends,” she said.

The restaurant would have celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, said Mikel May’s owner May Mendoza.

She hasn’t given up on the idea that there could be a solution – describing herself as a problem solver – saying she has been in discussions with various area groups and agencies supporting the restaurant.

The future

It’s not a question of the restaurant’s quality, Scott said.

She noted that while the design the court had approved did not include a third-party concession stand, the way it would be built under that option would leave opportunity to pursue that later.

There could also be exploration of a public-private partnership, Scott added.

There has been uncertainty prior to the meeting about the cost to insure it.

Chesney pointed out the county doesn’t carry insurance on its other coastal structures such as Briscoe King Pavilion in Padre Balli Park or Horace Caldwell Pier in Port Aransas.

“The revenue that this building provided was significant,” he told the court and audience. “The quality of life and quality of place that this provided to this community was significant.”

More: Bob Hall Pier: Insuring new pier could be 'extremely difficult,' consultant says

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This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: New Bob Hall Pier construction moves forward without longtime feature